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Telling Dialogue Tags

Good morning and welcome to Monday Blogs. Today, we’re talking about dialogue tags. These are often overlooked words by the reader, because we are only showing them if this is a statement or the character is doing an action while they’re speaking.
The rule of thumb is that you use say/said or ask/asked for dialogue tags. It’s a proven fact that readers don’t really see these words. They’re only in the place they’re in to indicate a person is speaking. However, in recent months, I’ve seen a trend where authors are “telling” the reader what’s happening with their vocal tags.

“What in the world are you talking about?” you ask.

“Simple this,” I say. “Authors are telling the reader what’s happening with their vocal tags.”

As an example, in a long discourse, I’ve seen authors using he began to indicate this is the start of the conversation. They’ll go on with the dialogue, sometimes nearly half a page long and end with he added or he finished. All three of those words, began, added, and finished are telling the reader what the speaker was doing.

There are also other words that are used to tell the reader what’s happening. She emphasized tells your reader how to view the dialogue. He spoke in a stern tone indicates the man is upset or angry.

As authors, our biggest thought should always be to always show, never tell. Telling is author intrusion into the story, where we are leading the reader in the direction where we want them to go. We’re assuming our readers aren’t smart enough to get what we’re showing them and have decided to give them a “road map” in order for them to understand our story better.

Yet, that’s not happening. Instead of understanding what we mean, we’re angering our readers. We’re not considering they’re smart enough to understand our story without us telling them what they should see or feel. Once you set down that path, it’s very easy to tell in other places, where we think we haven’t been clear about our characters intentions.

This is laziness in our writing. Instead of taking the time to insure our intent is clear, we’re explaining what a passage is about. Readers have a wonderful way of showing us they’re not happy with our actions. They simply close the book and find another author, one who isn’t telling them every little step, and enjoy their work.

About K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her

She’s a multi-genre author who comes up with ideas from the strangest sources. Those who know her best will tell you that nothing is safe or sacred when she is observing real life. In fact, she considers any situation she witnesses as fair characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond. game when plotting a new story.

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